This episode marks a few milestones on the 401(k) Fridays Podcast, it’s the 100th episode, the first episode of 2018 and features part 1 of 2 of my conversation with Jerry Schlichter. For some of our listeners Jerry requires no introduction. If you are not familiar, Jerry and his firm Schlichter Bogard & Denton have been the driving force behind many of the headline grabbing 401(k) lawsuits over the past decade.
As you will hear, his firm has successfully garnered multi-million dollar settlements, argued a 401(k) case in front of the US Supreme Court and has recently filed several more lawsuits against some very prominent universities. In part 1 of our conversation we discuss the origins of 401(k) litigation against employers, the “bet the farm” decision he made with his firm, why they turn down certain cases, why some cases succeed and others don’t, an important beacon for plan fiduciaries to follow and much more.
What clearly comes through is that Jerry has a tremendous passion for retirement plan participants, he is very knowledgable about how retirement plans work and has strong opinions on what employers should and should not do if they don’t want to run into him or his firm in the future!
Jerry Schlichter, Founding and Managing Partner of Schlichter, Bogard & Denton, pioneered Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) excessive fee litigation and has represented employees and retirees in 20 401(k) excessive fee cases.
In recent rankings of the most influential people in the 401(k) industry by 401kwire.com, Schlichter has repeatedly ranked in the top 5. This is in recognition of his accomplishments with numerous nationwide class actions brought on behalf of employees and retirees in large, corporate 401(k) plans, alleging excessive fees and conflicts of interest that reduce employees’ and retirees’ retirement assets.
In 2006, after a year and nine months of investigation into the industry, he and his firm filed his first in a series of cases on behalf of employees and retirees. At that time, no case had ever been brought alleging excessive fees in a 401(k) plan, despite the 401(k) having become America’s de facto retirement system, and there being over 500,000 plans in America. In addition, the Department of Labor had never brought a case for excessive fees in a 401(k) plan.
Since that time his firm has reached precedent setting settlements in over a dozen cases, on behalf of 401(k) plan employees and retirees representing over 1.5 million workers and retirees. These settlements have not only included monetary recoveries for the workers and retirees, but each has also included provisions going forward to reform the plans and to ensure that fees will be reasonable in the future.
Schlichter and his firm have been referred to by federal judges as “preeminent “in the field of 401(k) fee litigation; as demonstrating “extraordinary skill and determination”; as making “a significant, national contribution,” having “educated plan administrators, the Department of Labor, <and> the courts” about fees and fiduciary obligations; and he has been referred to by federal judges as a “private attorney general,” causing fees to come down in the entire 401(k) industry.
He has also been referred to as the “Lone Ranger” of 401(k) plans in the NY Times, and the term “Schlichterized” has been used to describe being sued by his firm.
401(k) Fridays Podcast Overview
Struggling with a fiduciary issue, looking for strategies to improve employee retirement outcomes or curious about the impact of current events on your workplace retirement plan? We've had conversations with retirement industry leaders to address these and other relevant topics! You can easily explore over 100 prior on-demand audio interviews here. Don't forget to subscribe as we release a new episode each Friday!